Gala parade, spectacle mark 60th anniversary celebrations

Security is tight in the Chinese capital of Beijing Thursday as China celebrates 60 years of Communist rule with a massive military parade and an elaborate fireworks display.


China marked 60 years of communist rule with a military parade and tightly controlled ceremonies on Beijing's Tiananmen Square, the very place where Chairman Mao proclaimed the New China on October 1, 1949.

The Chinese government orchestrated mass celebrations to showcase the nation’s growing economic and military power, stirring patriotic pride among many ordinary Chinese.

“This anniversary date comes as China’s star is really in the ascendency,” said Henri Morton, FRANCE 24’s correspondent in Beijing. “In the last few last years we have seen the country’s economy become the world’s third largest, and the nation held a very successful Olympics. In the last year we’ve also seen China taking a very prominent role in dealing with the global economic crisis.”

Celebrations began in the morning with troops firing cannons and raising the red national flag while President Hu Jintao looked on from the Gate of Heavenly Peace, the translation of Tiananmen, over the square.

Dressed with a high-collared Mao-style suit, Hu Jintao praised China’s formula of strict one-party rule in a speech to the invitation-only crowd.

“The development and progress of the New China over the past 60 years fully proved that only socialism can save China, and only reform and opening up can ensure the development of China, socialism and Marxism,” Hu told the crowd

“Today a socialist China embracing modernisation, embracing the world and embracing the future stands lofty and firm,” he said.

China’s potential firmness was also on display during a military parade including 8,000 soldiers, tanks, aircraft and rows of intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The military show was followed by a colourful parade, with tens of thousands of people marching and singing in unison in a display of China's ability to harness its vast manpower on a massive scale.

Besides goose-stepping troops, squads of pink-clad women “volunteers” dubbed the “iron roses” marched in go-go boots, while thousands of other participants marched while waving flowing fans, pom-poms and bouquets of flowers.

Giant portraits of China's leaders from Mao to Hu were paraded past the square, which was filled with 80,000 children flipping hand-held cards spelling out messages such as “Socialism is Good” and “Long Live China”.

Despite the meticulously-arranged patriotic outburst, security was reinforced around Beijing, where authorities imposed draconian measures to ensure no protest would spoil the party.

Residents on the parade route were banned from peeking out their windows.

“Go home! Leave now! Go watch TV at home!” a policeman yelled through a bullhorn at a crowd gathering miles from the square.

The celebrations are expected to climax in a huge fireworks display on Tiananmen Square later in the evening.

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